Sometimes you need to go out and celebrate a special event in a fancy place. Sometimes you need a quiet spot for a romantic dinner for two. And sometimes you just need a hearty, tasty bite or two and a glass of wine to share with friends. That’s exactly what you’ll get at Louie’s Wine Dive at the southwest corner of Gregory and Wornall in Waldo.
Louie’s opened in 2012 in a Waldo location that had seemed doomed to failure for more than a decade. Based on my recent visits, Louie’s is here to stay. As for the name, I think we all instinctively know what a dive is, especially after the success of the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, but Wikipedia has a few amusing bits to add. “An informal bar or pub … where local residents gather to drink and socialize.” Innocent enough. “A disreputable resort for drinking or entertainment.” Now that describes my idea of a dive, but I don’t know that it necessarily describes Louie’s. I don’t think you can plan a “dive.” More often the best-laid plans for a mom and pop place devolve into a dive, be it something disreputable or simply something innocent, informal and social. But informal and social is precisely the atmosphere of Louie’s. Price also plays a role at a dive and here, for the most part, the values are great.
The obvious attraction at Louie’s is wine. With approximately 100 selections, give or take a few, you’re sure to find something you like at a price point that fits your budget. During our visits, they offered at least 46 wines by the glass plus daily specials written on a large chalkboard backing the bar. Want to try something special that they don’t offer by the glass? They will open any bottle on the list if you purchase two glasses, and then they offer the remainder of the bottle as a special by-the-glass option to the rest of the crowd. This provides an excellent opportunity to try first-rate wines without having to break the bank. There’s an eclectic selection of beers available, but come on—you’re in a wine bar. It would be like ordering a chardonnay at a brewery.
We know what to expect of the food at a dive, don’t we? Chicken wings, deviled eggs, a club sandwich, burgers, fried fish. You won’t be disappointed if that’s what you’re looking for. Louie’s has all of those things, probably a little more elegantly prepared and presented than one would expect in a dive, but they do have them. The menu is divided into expected categories, each filled with on-trend items that you’ve seen on other menus, and I think that works for a dive. The food is rooted in classics of Americana and the Mediterranean, and you should have no trouble finding delicious fare to suit your cravings.
The menu at Louie’s reflects many of the popular ingredients of contemporary casual cuisine, each with a bit of a Louie’s twist. The BLT deviled eggs are a perfect example. Textbook hard-boiled eggs, stuffed with a mustardy egg yolk mixture, topped with bits of smoky bacon, lovely sweet marinated tomatoes (my favorite bite) and the merest hint of refreshing arugula. Truly, a nice deviled egg, and perfect for a wine dive.
The Confit Chicken Wings—you can’t have a dive without wings—with a house-made cabernet chipotle sauce was another crowd-pleaser that I would order again. Our server wanted to warn us that the chipotle glaze was a bit sweet—he actually seemed to warn us about anything we asked about (an odd sales technique)—but we found the sweetness a pleasant foil for the heat of the peppers and the richness of the incredibly moist and tender wings. Batons of celery and carrot add a bit of freshness.
Fried foods (a dive necessity) were represented by squeaky cheese (fried cheese curds), calamari, and fish and chips among other choices. Crisp wasn’t one of the descriptors for the flash-fried calamari with garlic and black pepper, and ours wasn’t, but the piquant serrano sauce and rich lemon basil aioli dipping sauces pleasantly complemented the squid. Certainly the humidity of our rain-soaked early summer didn’t help, yet the dish was successful, even without any of the expected crunch.
One trend Louie’s has embraced is that of gluten-free foods. More than 50 percent of the items on their menu are gluten-free or can be made that way. The only section of the menu without gluten-free options is entitled “Between Two Slices of Bread.” Each sandwich is offered with a choice of crispy fries (and ours were exactly that), quinoa or field greens. Most of the selections are popular classics like a Reuben, Cuban or Lobster Club, but the Midtown Meltdown piqued my interest. They snagged me with olive-oil poached cod and kept me interested with marinated tomatoes, serrano dill aioli, cheddar and naan flat bread (naan is like a pita on steroids). I haven’t tasted anything like that anywhere in town, and I relished the flavor combination. But they lost me with the accompanying salad of greens and strawberries. It’s a personal preference, but I dislike most berries in a salad. Berries take me right to dessert.
If I could suggest only one dish on the menu, it would be the pork gnocchi. One of their most popular items, and rightfully so, the potato gnocchi is dressed with a sauce that appears almost as a gigantic dollop of gravy but turns out to be a rich and complex pork condiment with great depth of flavor. With savory prosciutto, pork shoulder, ground pork, and Italian sausage, how could you go wrong? The gnocchi are slightly chewy, yet still airy, and I can imagine that the flavors would go well with practically every wine on their list, white, rosé or red.
The Hen Under Brick, Louie’s take on the Italian classic pollo al mattone, wasn’t quite what I imagined it to be. The hen, marinated with citrus, was served with a deliciously silky rosemary Parmesan gratin and broccolini. One of the great traits of a chicken cooked under a brick is the crisp texture achieved through the weighting process (bricks on the hen on a grill or skillet), but any chance of a crispy skin was eliminated by the thorough dousing with a pan jus, a nonessential sauce that simply added calories to the dish.
But remember, it is a self-described dive. If you want pollo al mattone, go to Tuscany. There are plenty of other options here to sate your hunger and quench your thirst. Monday features an all-night happy hour, an easy way to take the edge off your entire workweek. It begins at 4:00 p.m., in case you live in the area or get off work early. Just as with their regular happy hour, some of the most popular appetizers, such as the deviled eggs, confit chicken wings and calamari, are joined by braised pork sliders, Moroccan-glazed pork belly, and chicken poblano potstickers. Drink specials include $4 beer taps, $5 cocktails like a Moscow Mule, and $6 wine specials in gigantic eight-ounce pours. Wednesday features all night Sangria carafes ($12) with a minimum purchase of a $14 entrée.
The next time you’re in the neighborhood and find yourself in need of a restorative bite or sip, give this easy venue a try. How could you be disappointed? It’s a dive.
Louie’s Wine Dive | 7100 Wornall Rd. | 816-569-5097
Monday 4:00 – 11:00 p.m.
Tuesday & Wednesday 11:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.
Thursday 11:00 a.m. – 1:30 a.m.
Friday 11:00 a.m. – 1:30 a.m.
Saturday Brunch 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Saturday Dinner 2:00 p.m. – 1:30 a.m.
Sunday Brunch 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Sunday Dinner 2:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.
If rumors are true, there are plans for another Louie’s opening in Overland Park at La Paloma Plaza on 119th St. later this year.